Billionaire Richard Branson has risen these days to 86 kilometers above sea level with his rocket plane, on the edge of space. And the excitement fever curve climbed at least as high after landing: Obscene is that space race, the space tourism race that Branson is currently leading with fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos. As parts of the world bent over how to cope with the effects of global warming, a few super-rich hissed upward, leaving gigantic clouds of exhaust fumes behind them, just for the fun of it. , like new fun for some of the best in the world. .
And of course, it’s true: the way Branson and Bezos present themselves matters most. One of them absolutely wants to be faster than the other, one does not allow himself the slightest success. Elon Musk, with his transport flights to orbit and to the International Space Station, also seems wise. The days of rich men in their maddening crates should be long gone. Only: the same applies to a lot of other things that the average wealthy citizen likes to do when there is no pandemic. Fly across half the continent for a weekend, for example. But you don’t really like to think about it.
After all, civil aviation alone accounted for just under 3.8% of EU-wide CO₂ emissions in 2017, and the transport sector as a whole accounted for almost a quarter of emissions. . And this is the only area in statistics that today, compared to 1990, emits not less, but more exhaust gases into the air.
The stock market is more efficient than calls
Of course, looking at the individual case, it can be said that Branson, Bezos and their super rich clients are much bigger polluters than just vacationers. But what they have in common, top earners and billionaires: They’re doing something unreasonable – just because they can. Therefore, looking at the individual case is not enough. And this is why, in view of the whole, the question arises whether the two are wrong: the 50 euro ticket for the short trip to London, Paris or Madrid and the 250,000 dollar ticket for a few minutes. weightless on the touch of the universe.
Experience shows, however, that moral appeals are of little use. However, the wallet detour is much more efficient – for billionaires as well as for the Mustermann family. Both need financial incentives to forgo unnecessary excursions.
Doesn’t the latest hype on space tourism show above all that the gentlemen involved may not know what to do with their belongings? And that is why they fell in love with shooting each other with their peers for fun? One could guess. In any case, a report by the nonprofit intelligence service Pro Publica recently showed how little tax the wealthy pay. According to this, the cumulative wealth of the 25 richest U.S. citizens increased from 2014 to 2018 by $ 401 billion – but only 3.4% of that amount went to U.S. tax authorities, for a total of $ 13.6 billion. dollars. The fact that they have been able to become so rich is often due to tax loopholes, through which they shift the profits of their companies to where they have virtually nothing to give up.
Those who pollute the environment must pay
And to date, low-cost airlines are also successfully establishing themselves in the market because they do not pay taxes on their kerosene in Europe. Although the airplane is the most climate-damaging form of transportation, it has been subsidized by states for decades.
But something is happening, at least slowly. The G-20 countries decided this weekend that companies should pay at least 15% tax on their profits around the world, if possible. Tax havens must be dried up and the transfer of profits by the tax authorities must be stopped. And the European Commission is considering at least an intra-European tax on aviation fuel. This Wednesday, when the European Union presents in Brussels its plan to reduce Europe’s CO₂ emissions by 55% by 2030, will show whether that will really happen.
If both are successful, they could be important steps in the fight against climate change. States would then have more money to advance the necessary restructuring of the economy and society and to amortize them, especially for the weakest. And at the same time, irrationality would be at least a little less attractive to the strongest.